Aircraft Recycling Service ~ Air-side based Assets
Aircraft Recycling Service ~ Air-side based Assets

Aircraft Recycling ~ Surgical Deconstruction

Due Diligence
The Machines work together holding and cutting the tailplane
The Machines work together holding and cutting the tail plane…

Due in large part to recent changes in Environmental Legislation, deconstructing large ‘End of Life’, Aircraft can be a complex endeavor.

Substantial planning and permissions are required and it is normally conducted in conjunction with special Environmental Permits.

Due diligence forms a core requirement of any large operation, and inquiries are far reaching. All research, plans and Health & Safety Documentation must be collated and presented as a formal Construction Phase Plan. (Projects of this type are regulated under the Construction, Design Management Regulations 2015).

So what are the considerations for aircraft demolition ? Well they are many. To begin with this is a vehicle weighing in at over 22000kg in stripped out form. It is almost 30 metres long with a wingspan of 40 metres tip to tip.

The aircraft are often located ‘Airside’, at Airports. This creates a need to control waste down to the last fragment. Migration of waste around the area is simply not an option.

For this reason, a phased plan is developed, which:


(1) Removes all soft furnishings and insulation from the fuselage.

(2) De-pollutes all pipes and tanks so the fuselage is basically dry of all liquids.

(3) Allows for the ordered cutting up of the fuselage in to large manageable pieces, which are immediately  loaded in to salvage containers. No heavy rendering is done at site.

(4) Following completion of the project, the site is swept several times. Then an industrial road cleaner is deployed to vacuum the entire area. Finally a line search is conducted by personnel in a grid pattern, and every square metre of the site is inspected for any remaining traces of debris.

Operational Process

A diesel excavator equipped with a set of powerful hydraulic cutting shears will be used to surgically cut and remove sections of the aircraft. It is assisted by a second excavator equipped with a special grab. The machine operator holds the piece to be cut.

The Team go to work on a wing
The Team go to work on a wing ~ One of the toughest parts of the air frame…

In this way, the fuselage is very carefully taken apart with the minimum of fragmentation. It also avoids large pieces hitting the ground and damaging the ground slab.

Our excavators run on rubber. The Fuchs has tyres, whilst the Kobelco is fitted with rubber battens to its tracks. We avoid surface damage with such measures.

The resultant pieces will be removed from the vicinity using a fork lift truck or a further excavator equipped with a hydraulic grapple.

The salvage is finally loaded in to a 40ft articulated type container prior to removal from site. Rubber mats and sheets of board are used over ground areas which are at risk from impact damage from air frame sections being removed.

Radio Communications

The excavator operators are in radio contact with each other at all times and are invidulated by a project manager – who is also in radio contact with the plant operators .

The whole operation is carried out by only three men any one of whom can stop the project at a moments notice should the need arise. The rest of the area is quarantined and no-one is allowed near until project work ceases.

Interesting Facts…
Cutting The Tail Plane Away
Cutting The Tail Plane Away

Interesting facts about projects such as this include:

It took over 60 hours planning, surveying and documentation time to produce a Construction Phase Plan for this work not including travel time.

It took only about ten hours to reduce an entire air frame to just 3 recycling containers of resultant salvage.

Aircraft Grade Aluminium which is used to manufacture most types of craft, is inherently fragile. It can fracture just in the way an old record might, when dropped. 

The floors and wing haunches inside a Hercules are made so strongly, it can take four times as long to cut through these areas as it does any where else on the structure.

Project almost complete
Project almost complete ~ The final fuselage sections are reduced before loading…